Thursday, 25 April 2019

le forêt

As debate continues on how the iconic landmark ought to be rebuilt and restored, true to its former self or romanticised memories or rather a showcase of innovation in building material and technique as it has been over the centuries, Studio NAB puts forward its proposal to replace the ancient wooden roof with a green house that hosts educational and outreach programmes and is reflective of challenges facing contemporary times. What do you think about that?  The burnt oak timbers known colloquially as the Forest would be fashioned into planters and fertilise new growth from the ashes and the spire would be raised again as an apiary, accommodating a number of beehives.

mother of invention

Previously we’ve explored how the Year without a Summer influenced and informed Mary Shelley’s Post-Modern Prometheus and the hardship endured by the population in general, but hadn’t appreciated how the climate disaster helped transform transportation by creating a situation that allowed machine aided propulsion to gain a purchase.
Due to cold weather that precipitated successive failing harvests, people had no fodder to feed their horses and out of desperation, had to eat their horses, which made alternative modes of getting around a necessity, prompting Karl Freiherr von Drais (see also) to invent his Laufmaschine—a dandy-horse and like a bicycle without the pedal mechanism. Innovations such as this speak to human ingenuity and resilience when it comes to surmounting change. Let’s hope we can all keep pace.

completely automated public turing test to tell computers and humans apart

NPR’s Planet Money recently presented a really engrossing episode on CAPTCHA technologies—previously and which is the title initialism—that shows how the counter-measures against spam and subterfuge not only evolved with but also to a big degree informed the developing internet to make it a richer and more connected experience.
It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story that the suite of games pre-installed in Windows (despite taxing precious system resources) was distributed in order to teach users the manual dexterity needed to operate a computer mouse and while I do remember some times being asked to provide my human credentials by identifying a blurry building number, what I failed to realise was that human we’re just being shown skewed text and images to thwart automated bots but were also being enlisted by comprehensive mapping services and earlier by newspaper archives to perform the optical character recognition that machines were not yet able to decipher when the copy was suboptimal. Later iterations of the test tasked people with identifying cars, boats and buildings and aided in machine-learning by tutoring neural networks in a funny sort of feedback loop that’s enabled computers to beat the original methods of minding the gates.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

now hist. and rare

Sentence First refers us to a delightful obsession from bibliophile, logophile Ammon Shea undertaken in 2008, a full-time, year-long commitment to read every volume of the Oxford English Dictionary (previously) from cover to cover, approaching some sixty million words (not entries alone but terms plus sometimes expansive their definitions but an impressive vocabulary nonetheless by any measure), and to record his reflections. Such curated lists are always an invitation to find one’s own to share but there are some really choice words, such as constult (v:) to act stupidly together, epizeuxis (n:) the repetition of a word with vehemence and emphasis, latibulate (v:) to hide oneself in a corner and vulpeculated (pa. pple. [past participle]:) in the state of having been robbed by a fox. Much more to explore at the link above.

telling the bees

Not exclusively a British custom but perhaps more concentrated than on the continent, the very endearing custom of ‘telling the bees’ recorded in Ireland, France, Germany and Bohemia as well probably has ancient origins in the mythological belief that the helpful insects could bridge the natural and supernatural realms.

Kept bees would be kept apprised of all milestones in the life of the beekeeper and family and surely this confessional sharing was therapeutic and a comfort in the face of loss or change, and breach of the practise—that is, failure to involve the hive during major life events, not putting them into mourning or informing them of births and weddings carried a penalty, not only foreboding for the occasion itself but the colony itself could become unproductive or stray. Though divination is not emphasised as much as participation, the bees through their behaviour could also give an omen and help to optimise outcomes. Learn more about the strong and establish relationship between humans and the pollinators at Amusing Planet at the link above and do take a moment to greet and thank your local bees.

reggie mac dawson has absconded with my funds

On this day in 1969, the US government issued its first mortgage-backed security through an organisation incorporated the year prior, the Government National Mortgage Association—colloquially known as Ginne Mae, a wholly-owned charter within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to promote home-ownership.
An earlier and enduring iteration was creations of the crisis of Great Depression, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and in 1970 the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and infamously Sallie Mae (the Student Loan Marketing Association) do not have the full-faith and backing of the federal government, guaranteeing solvency, only Ginnie Mae (with a real estate portfolio upwards of two trillion dollars presently), yet are de facto beneficiaries, whose purpose is to create secondary bond markets and have occasioned a few crises of their own. Jimmy Mack, when are you coming back?